Disney World – Lance’s Interview Tent – Same Time
As the Orlando slayers hovered nearby talking among themselves, Lance eyed the group curiously. She pulled her data pad from her pack and walked over with confidence in her stride and a smile on her face. She stepped in front of the Orlando leader and looked her straight in the eyes. The petite reporter had to look up since the slayer was several inches taller than she was.
“Mac, right?” Lance began. “I’m Lisa Lance.”
She held out her hand for a friendly shake, but Mac just stared at her and crossed her arms. Lance cleared her throat and withdrew her hand.
“I’m here doing a documentary on slayer operations,” Lance explained. “I had intended to focus primarily on the Cleveland branch, but since we’re here…” She hesitated when the towering slayer didn’t seem to be warming to her. “You know, since I’m here and you’re here, I thought maybe I could finagle a few of you Orlando gals into participating as well.”
Mac leaned down and glared hard. “Gals?”
“Well, um, girls, I mean,” Lance corrected nervously as she took a step back. “Ladies, uh, women, no…slayers.”
Mac’s team closed ranks around her, forming a single glaring mass of unhappy slayers.
“Never mind,” Lance squeaked before scurrying back to her tent.
Disney World – Cleveland Slayer Pod – Later
In their makeshift barracks, the Cleveland slayers finished stowing their gear and then suited up for patrol. Janet, Brianna, Finola, and Jenn finished first and went outside, leaving Livia and Mira alone.
Both were being deliberately slow in their preparations, each one stealing an awkward glance at the other when possible. When Livia finally finished getting ready, she headed toward the door.
“I’ll see you outside,” Livia said as she passed Mira.
“You gonna tell me what’s up, or am I just supposed to guess?” Mira called after her.
“What?” Livia replied in feigned ignorance.
Mira gave Livia a you-know stare.
“Nothing,” Livia insisted. “Nothing’s up.”
“Something’s definitely up,” Mira countered seriously. Then she lightened her tone and crossed her arms.
“Okay…what’d I do? Come on, tell me. We’ll yell, we’ll rant, we’ll hash it all out – ”
“Nothing. You didn’t do anything.”
Mira looked exasperated and then a little hurt. “Then why do I feel like you’re holding me…out here?” Mira held her arms out straight in front of herself as if holding someone at arm’s length. “Hell, sometimes it’s more like this.” She gave an imaginary shove.
Livia hung her head for a moment then looked back up. “I’m not.”
Mira looked at Livia long and hard. Then she held up her hands in apparent surrender. “Okay. Fine.” Mira angrily snatched up her gear and pushed past Livia. Within seconds, she was out the door.
Livia’s shoulders slumped, and she sighed heavily, running her hand through her hair.
Disney World – Lance’s Interview Tent – Moments Later
When Lance heard the door to the slayer barracks bang open, she motioned to her cameraman to follow her. He snatched up his portable and hurried after her.
Disney World – Outside The Cleveland Slayer Pod – Moments Later
As Mira stormed down the steps from the pod, Lance caught up to her and stood in her path.
“Ms. Fitzgerald, I was wondering if we might – ” Lance began before getting shoved aside by Mira, who walking on by without so much as a word.
Lance looked at her cameraman and let out an appalled huff. The cameraman just shrugged. Just then, the door to the slayer pod opened again, and Livia came outside. Undeterred by her earlier failures, Lance smiled and approached.
“Ms. Hansen, I’d like to get started with some pre-mission interviews if – ”
Livia stopped Lance with an upheld hand then leaned close to whisper fiercely at her. “Look, I know Chairman Giles gave you the all-clear to be here, but that doesn’t mean I have to talk to you. I got a job to do, and I can’t do it if I’m sittin’ around here makin’ small talk with you. If you can catch my slayers off-duty or on-break, then fine, but otherwise, stay outta their way…and mine.”
At that, Livia stepped around the reporter and headed for where her slayers had gathered next to the Orlando team. As Livia walked off, Lance gave another indignant huff.
“Strike three,” said her cameraman, earning him a scorching glare from Lance.
Disney World – Outside the Slayer Pods – Moments Later
Livia stepped onto a supplies crate and whistled loudly to quiet the group of slayers before her. Jocasta and James brought up the rear.
“All right everybody, listen up!” Livia ordered. “We’ll work in two-man teams on grid assignment.”
“Mac, divide your group in half. I want one team covering Tomorrowland and Toontown. I want the other team monitoring the full perimeter, particularly around the shield walls. See if there’re any holes or gaps in the shield.”
Mac nodded solemnly then started pointing out slayers in her team, divvying up the assigned task.
“Janet, you and Mira have Frontierland.”
Mira crossed her arms tightly and refused to look at Livia.
“Got it,” Janet said quickly.
“Katie and Bri, I want you two working with Finola since she’s new on the block. You’ve got Fantasyland and this area here. Take turns checking on the transport ship and the group here at the castle.”
Finola gave a playful nudge to both Brianna and Katherine. “Fantasyland,” she said, raising her eyebrows suggestively.
“Get your mind out of the gutter,” Brianna complained. “This is Disney World, for goodness’ sake!”
“What about me?” Jenn interjected.
“You’re with me in Adventureland,” Livia replied.
Jenn clapped her hands excitedly. Livia then turned to the non-slayers in the bunch.
“Jo, James, I need you guys checking on the shield console at the base of the castle. Make sure it’s working properly. We can’t afford for any demons to get out of here, not with thousands of tourists just a few miles away.”
“If there’s a problem, we’ll find it,” Jocasta replied. Livia then turned back to her slayers.
“Be careful out there,” Livia warned. “We’re not using our seraphims or our heavy blasters because of the dangers of interacting with the interior of the shield, so it’s mainly traditional weapons and small-range stuff. Don’t take any unnecessary chances, and don’t try to be a hero. We’re not really sure what we’re going to encounter, so if you need help, call for backup.” When she noticed a few worried expressions, Livia added, “Don’t worry. Whatever’s out there, we can handle it.”
As the slayers started dispersing, Livia called them back. “Oh, one more thing,” she said. “As you know, Lisa Lance is here to conduct interviews for her Council-sanctioned documentary.” Livia snorted at that. “Anyway, in between your patrols, stop in and give her a few moments…if you can. If you can’t, don’t sweat it. Job first, got it?”
Disney World – Shield Console – Moments Later
James grabbed his tool kit and headed for the shield console at the base of Cinderella’s Castle. Jocasta followed, with Willowgram’s mobile emitter tucked under her arm. As James activated the maintenance interface, Jocasta set the emitter on the console and turned it on. Within seconds, Willow’s image materialized, although it was a bit faded and static-ridden.
“Hello, my name is Willow, and I’ll be your server today,” the hologram announced with a smirk.
Jocasta snorted, but James didn’t even notice. He was already mesmerized by the shield program loading on the monitor.
“What do we got?” Jocasta asked.
James’s hands flew over the keys, moving the program through multiple menus. He hit the Enter key with a satisfied smack and turned to Jocasta.
“I’ve got the self-diagnostic routine running now,” he said. “Should take it a few seconds to – ” The console started beeping. “Wait…” James looked at the screen with a worried expression.
“What is it?” Jocasta asked.
“Problem,” James said. “The shield’s fluctuating.”
“It wasn’t fluctuating when we came in,” Jocasta commented. “Toni said it was fine.”
“Maybe it’s an intermittent phenomenon,” Willowgram offered.
“Let me check the logs,” James said. After a moment of looking, he added, “Yep, it’s happening at irregular times, but with increasing frequency.”
“How bad are the fluctuations?” Jocasta asked. “Enough for something to get out?”
“If the ‘something’ was in the right place at the right time…yes,” James replied.
“What’s causing the fluctuations?” Jocasta inquired.
“The problem seems to be in the shield generator,” James explained. “The only way to fix it is by direct access at its location.”
“And that would be…?”
James pointed at the screen as he changed it to a different image. “Right here, directly underneath the castle, in the tunnels below.”
“But that means it’s…”
“…right above the hellmouth,” James confirmed.
Disney World – Lance’s Interview Tent – Moments Later
Lisa Lance looked at her watch and then at her babbling interviewee before sighing deeply. She looked at her cameraman and rolled her eyes.
“Being a slayer is, like, the coolest thing,” Jenn rattled on, oblivious to her audience’s bored expressions. “I mean, I’ve got, like, superpowers and stuff, and I get to be a hero on a daily basis. Oh, oh! I so have to tell you this.” Jenn actually stopped to take a breath. “This one time, when I first joined the Council – ”
“Thank you!” Lance interrupted desperately. “Thank you, Ms. Bailey. I’ll, um, get more from you later, okay?”
Jenn’s smile drooped into a disappointed pout.
“Jenn! Get your ass out here!” boomed Livia’s voice outside the tent.
Jenn’s face instantly lit back up, and she hopped from her chair and ran outside.
Disney World – Lance’s Interview Tent – Moments Later
Janet squirmed uncomfortably in front of the camera. “Is this okay?”
“You’re fine,” Lisa Lance’s voice told her.
“I’m not…real good at this,” Janet sighed, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear.
“Let’s start off easy,” Lance said. “How old were you when you found out that you were a slayer?”
“Thirteen,” Janet said succinctly.
“And…how did you feel about that?”
“I was…excited, I guess.”
Janet shook her head. “I dunno. I mean, I grew up in a little town in North Dakota. It was pretty much this or work at the Wendy King, so…”
“What do you think of it now?”
“It’s…okay, I guess.”
“Could you elaborate on that?” Lance was beginning to sound a little annoyed.
“Hey Janet!” The blonde slayer looked off to her left towards Mira’s voice. “Let’s go,” she heard Mira say.
“Sorry,” Janet said with a shrug, then summarily got up and walked off.
“Damn taciturn slayers,” Lance grumbled.
Disney World – Teacups – Later
“This joint’s a wee bit of a kip, innit?” Finola idly clapped her hands together as she followed Katherine and Brianna through Fantasyland. Brianna giggled. “What?” Finola asked testily.
“You said ‘wee’,” Brianna managed to say between laughs. “You’re like an angry leprechaun!” The blonde slayer descended into giggles again.
“Yeah, well, this leprechaun’s got ‘erself a sword ‘ere,” Finola warned. “Me favorite since I was knee-‘igh. I named ‘er Rose, and I’m real sharp with ‘er.” Brianna quieted down immediately.
“So, Dublin branch, huh?” Katherine asked, changing the subject. “Mind my asking what brings you to Cleveland?”
“Needed a change,” Finola said, “and I wanted a bit of a challenge. I mean, we’re busy enough. St. Patrick mighta drove the snakes out o’ Ireland, but ‘e didn’t drive out the demons, now did he? ‘sides…I wanted a go at the ol’ ‘ellmouth.”
“Every slayer’s dream,” Katherine noted ironically.
“Leave it to the yanks, though, t’ build an amusement park over one of the bloody things,” Finola said.
The trio stopped at the edge of the nearest attraction. “I mean, what’s the point of this gammy contraption?” Finola asked. A gabled roof shaded several over-sized teacups big enough for humans to sit in. The surrounding fence was rotten and starting to fall over.
“Oh, I know this,” Brianna said. “You would get in the cups, and they’d spin, right?”
“Sounds like a recipe for barf,” Katherine noted. The group set off across the floor between the teacups.
Finola walked a little bit ahead of the others. “There’s nothin’ ‘ere,” she said loudly.
Katherine put a hand on the Irish slayer’s shoulder. “Careful. Plenty of places to hide around here.”
“Like where?” Finola asked.
Katherine pointed over Finola’s shoulder, where a gray, furry demon with horns was rising from its hiding place in the nearest teacup.
“Bugger,” Finola sighed, pulling her sword from its leather scabbard at her waist. The demon tried to jump on her, but she deftly swiped it with the weapon, and the demon fell to the ground with a squeal. Then the creature was silent.
“Are there more?” asked a wary Brianna as she pulled out her kama, gripping the pair of sickle-like weapons tightly in her fists.
“Probably,” Katherine told her. “Do you believe me now?”
“It’s a fair play,” Finola admitted.
“Am I supposed to understand what comes out of your mouth?” Brianna asked.
“Ask me swizz.”
Disney World – Adventureland – Same Time
“So I told her, I was like, ‘I’m going to Florida with Livia,’ and she was like, ‘No way,’ and I was like, ‘Yes way,’ and then she – ”
Livia sighed and turned to Jenn. “Do you ever shut up?” she asked, her rudeness alleviated only slightly by the tiredness in her voice.
Jenn gave this some serious thought for a moment, then brightened. “No,” she grinned.
“Right,” Livia said, her voice even. “Perfect.”
The pair walked down a thin wooden path between thick groves of trees so well-preserved that they might have been artificial.
“So why do they call it the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, anyway?” Jenn asked. “I mean, I don’t think they have trees like this in Switzerland. Not that I’ve ever been there. I mean, I hear it’s nice. There’s mountains, and skiing, and the European shrine to the victims of the…but that’s less happy. I like mountains and skiing. Do you like skiing?”
Livia looked like she was in pain. “I don’t know.”
“Of course,” Jenn agreed quickly. “You wouldn’t. You’re so busy saving the world and stuff. Wow, that must be exciting.” The pair began to climb up a thin, rickety-looking set of wooden stairs. “This is my first trip with the world-saving unit. Did you know that?”
“Is that what they call us?” Livia asked.
“Uh-huh,” Jenn said. “You and Mira and – ”
“It’s not always me and Mira!” Livia snapped.
“Right, ‘course not.” Jenn nodded vigorously. “I just mean, you two are always doing stuff together…but not now.” Jenn’s brow furrowed.
“Well, then it’s obviously not ‘always’,” Livia pointed out.
“Are you sure there’s nothing going on with you two?” Jenn asked, but Livia did not reply. The pair had just reached the top of the stairs and were now standing on a wide wooden platform. In front of them was the ruined remains of the Treehouse.
“You know, for an amusement park, this place is not that amusing,” Jenn observed. “I am not amused,” she stated matter-of-factly. “I’m trying to be amused, but – ”
Livia raised a finger to her lips, gesturing for Jenn to be quiet. For once, her companion obeyed. “You hear that?”
“Hear what?” Jenn asked quietly.
A blue-ish ball of fur suddenly shot out from a nearby tree, zoomed past the girls, and disappeared into the foliage on the other side of the platform.
“What was – ?” Jenn began, before being cut off when another ball of fur flew right into her face, sending the slayer sprawling backwards. A demon alighted on a nearby picnic table, looking like a monkey with wings and red eyes. A whole flock of monkey demons then flew straight at the slayers from all directions.
Livia punched one right out of the air with her bare fist, sending the demon spiraling downwards into the undergrowth. Another tried to grab onto her arm, but Livia shook it off.
Jenn pulled a grenade from her belt and threw it straight up into a flying group of demons. It exploded among them with a loud bang and an orange burst of flames. Innards and tree remains rained down on the two slayers.
Livia looked incredulous. “You used a grenade on those things? Directly over our heads?!”
“Flying monkeys,” Jenn replied with a shudder. “They were always the part of The Wizard of Oz that freaked me out, okay?” Jenn shrugged. “Anyway, I thought it was a good shot.”
Livia pinned a surviving demon to the platform with her sword. “Maybe it was, at that.” She managed a little bit of a smile. “But from now on, I get to carry the grenades, okay?”
Jenn grinned. “Okay.” She turned just in time to dodge another assault by a monkey demon.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Conference Room – Same Time
Veronica and Velika sat on either side of Giles at the conference table. They all listened intently as two police detectives – one older and balding, the other young and somewhat handsome – offered their reports on the recent murders of young women.
“There have been four most recently,” the older detective detailed. “And according to what Commander Petrova has shared with us, all four were recently called as slayers.”
“Two more are missing,” the younger detective added, “but there’s no indication that either of these girls were slayers.”
“So it could be a coincidence?” Giles asked.
The older detective shrugged. Velika didn’t seem convinced. “A remarkable coincidence, if it is.”
“And their cause of death?” Giles inquired.
“Undetermined,” the younger detective said grimly. “They were tortured prior to death, though.”
“So their deaths don’t, on the surface, appear to be of supernatural or demonic origin?” Giles asked.
The older detective shook his head. “Still, we thought we’d better let you know what was going on.” Giles nodded his agreement.
“Did the girls have anything in common?” Veronica asked. “Friends? Activities?”
“As of now, we just don’t know much at – ” The detective was cut off by the shrill sound of his phone ringing. He pulled it from his pocket and walked a few feet away to answer it. “Yeah,” he said simply. He listened a few moments, then said, “All right. We’ll be right there.”
The older detective approached the table. “I’m afraid we have to go,” he told Giles and the others. “They found another girl.” The younger detective immediately rose to his feet and gathered his belongings.
“I’d like Velika to accompany you,” Giles asked the detectives, “if that’s all right.”
“Of course,” they both replied with a nod before rushing from the room, followed closely by Velika.
Cleveland Suburb – Moments Later
Velika’s frown deepened as she stood over the body of a dead young woman. She sighed and bent at the knees to get a closer look. She put her hand on the girl’s shoulder and gently rolled her.
The light from a streetlight illuminated the girl’s face, and Velika swallowed hard. She stood slowly.
“It’s Amy Soon,” Velika said, identifying the girl to the nearby detective. “She’s the sister of one of my slayers.” Velika passed her hand through her hair and sighed sadly.
Disney World – Splash Mountain – Same Time
Mira and Janet walked down a wide path, under a huge arch sign that read “Splash Mountain”.
“I don’t know,” Mira was saying, “I wasn’t that impressed.”
“Not impressed?” Janet was incredulous. “Did you see the Joston special she pulled on that Raynir demon?”
“That was not Jessica Wells,” Mira said. “That was her stunt double. And did you see the ending? You cannot launch a missile by hacking into a website.”
“That’s not the point…” Janet began before stopping in her tracks. “What is that?” She pointed to a small dinosaur-like creature scurrying at the side of the path. “Some kind of iguana?”
“It looks like a reject from the Dino-Venture over at the new park,” Mira said.
“It’s kinda cute,” Janet said, taking a few steps closer to the creature.
“Sure, if you go for the whole scaly lizard-thing look,” Mira quipped.
Janet took another step forward. “Hello…” she reached out one hand towards the tiny dinosaur.
Without warning, the creature tried to bite Janet’s hand off. Teeth that looked too long and sharp for its relatively small mouth snapped at air as Janet just barely pulled back in time. The small reptilian demon jumped forward, causing Janet to stumble backwards onto her behind. It looked like it was about to slash the slayer’s stomach open with its small, spiky tail when Mira brought the hilt of her sword down on the creature’s head, knocking it senseless.
“Okay, so…not so cute then,” Janet said, accepting Mira’s hand to help get to her feet.
“Next time be more careful,” Mira said as the pair continued around a bend in the path. “You never know what we’ll find around the next…corner.”
The pair stopped in their tracks as the path came to a sudden end. In front of them lay a wide, stagnant stream, where once a log ride had flowed freely. Both banks of the stream were covered with dozens of eggs, hollows dug in the dirt, each filled with several eggs that might be called chicken-like were it not for their large size. Around the nests and over various decrepit-looking animatronic animals crept several more of the small dinosaur-like demons with spiky tails. A few noticed the pair of slayers and growled.
Then, from the distance came a long, loud roar, the sort of sound that can only come from a massive pair of lungs.
“I think I hear mommy calling,” Mira said.
The two slayers looked at each other in resignation. “Looks like we’re gonna be here a while,” Janet sighed.
End of Act Two